Somebody once said about this film that it was “A million dollar title on a thousand-dollar picture”. And yes, the film is pretty low budget even by 50’s standards, but still, there’s a lot to recommend about this film, which is influencial and yes, at times, even scary.
It deals with Tony Rivers, a young teenager in the James Dean mold, who has quite a bad temper. He gets angry over nothing: pat him on the back without telling him and he’ll slug you. Ditto if you try to prank him (even though he has no problem pranking others). So, he seeks help from a hypnotherapist played by classic character actor Whit Bissell (from Brute Force, Creature From The Black Lagoon and The Time Machine), who has a double motive for his actions: releasing a man’s inner beast. And so he does, as young Tony turns into a werewolf and starts killing people, first one of his teenage friends, then a young pretty gymnast (in a scene that was later echoed in Grindhouse’s “Thanksgiving”).
The film has a very delirious quality about it. From the makeup to the cheapness of the set designs and the frenzied acting from Michael Landon, it all seems to work. The gymnasium scene is known as one of the best in 50’s horror films, and it shows. From the pacing, to the transformation, to the upside-down camera shot, it’s one of the most impressive set pieces of the film.
This was one of the films that put AIP on the map, where they discovered their industry-changing format of the teenager being the center of both the story and the consumer. They would follow it with other teenage-themed horror films like I Was A Teenage Frankenstein, Invasion of the Saucer Men, and Blood Of Dracula. The werewolf himself would make a return in the “horror industry” horror film, How To Make A Monster.